Even-handed? No. Just inane

Apr 15, 2024
Palestinian mother Asmaa Naser, mourns the bodies of her twin children, Ahmed and Jihan Naser Palestinian mother Asmaa Naser, mourns the bodies of her twin children, Ahmed and Jihan Naser, who were killed as a result of an Israeli air strike on Nuseirat camp, at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir Al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, on December 29, 2023. Image:Alamy / Ali Hamad apaimages Dair El-Balah Gaza Strip Palestinian Territory 291223_Dair_El-Balah_AH_009 Copyright: xapaimagesxAlixHamadxapaimagesx

I think if I hear again, in some attempt at a supposed even-handedness an interviewer ask a representative of the Palestinian people in this terrible time, ‘do you also oppose the actions of Hamas on 7th October?’ I will puke. That is not a pleasant prospect.

There it was again the other day on ‘our ABC’ with an earnest young interviewer asking Nassar Mashni, from the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN) that very question. Nassar, of course had just been detailing just some of the atrocities being committed against his people, including some of his own family members. Then he had to face that question! It was as though his heart felt grief was diminished as it lacked the importance of the interviewers need for balance, perhaps even to catch him out as being unable to admit his rejection of Hamas’ actions. There was even an implied link of him, indeed Palestinians as a whole to Hamas.

Is this balance gone mad? The interviewee, having detailed the many dreadful things that are happening to his people is faced with this inanity, in the name of journalistic balance.

Just to see how perverse this is, can anyone imagine during World War II an interview being carried out with a Jewish emigre lucky enough to have escaped the horrors of the Holocaust, who after recounting the atrocities being committed against their people, is then faced with the question, ‘But do you also condemn the killing of the German diplomat Ernst vom Rath in Paris by a Jew?’ Such is of course inconceivable as indeed it should be, but not so the entirely inappropriate question directed to Nassar Moshri. That reporter ought hang their head in shame, and even more so those who either teach or direct reporters to so question.

The ABC, late 1939. ‘Listeners will be aware of course that Germany has moved to settle France (we can’t say the forbidden word ‘invade as that would deviate from ‘even-handedness). Yesterday we had Monsieur Jean Clerot from the French embassy, and today in the interests of a balanced presentation of both sides of the story we welcome Herr Ernst Mann from the German embassy. Welcome Ernst.’ ‘Thank you. It is lovely to be with you. Of course you will be aware of French aggression against the Reich. They unnecessarily, and aggressively, along with Britain, declared war against us last September and since that time have been making incursions into Germany territory, particularly under that terrorist, De Gaulle. We have done nothing but to defend ourselves against a terrorist state. We have had no choice but to now move our forces into France.”

Of course I am being deliberately provocative, extreme, perhaps inane myself. But that’s the point. As stupid as are my two examples, are the words of these interviewers who, clearly under dictates ask these stupid,’for even-handedness’ questions.

And must the ABC include in nearly every story words to the effect, ‘the current war began when Hamas invaded Israel killing 1,200 people and taking 253 hostages.’ It really only serves to justify the current slaughter in Gaza, adds nothing to the particular story to which it is appended, while also implying that the Hamas attack had no context, but rather just came out of nowhere.

Of course, readers of Pearls and Irritations will be aware of a whole range of words journalists and reporters are forbidden to use at the ABC. To cross the line, even only slightly is to invite a heavy-handed response. Just ask Antoinette Lattouf.

The pursuit of even handedness at one stage led our other public broadcaster, SBS to intersperse every report on Gaza with the bracketed line, said in parrot-like fashion, ‘Hamas, (designated a terrorist organisation by many nations, including Australia), announced….’ Every night it was the same to the point of being comical, if it wasn’t so absurd. I did lodge a complaint. I would like to think it played some part in the silencing of the parrot.

This cult of balance or even-handedness has now come to the point where it serves only to hinder the pursuit of investigative truth. It obscures wider context, abdicates ethical responsibility to call wrong out for being wrong, provides justification for all manner of evil, and gives air to voices often best left unheard. It has become farcical.

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